State News

N.C. revoking Alcoa certification for Yadkin River dams

Posted December 1, 2010

— North Carolina regulators revoked a key certification provided in Alcoa Inc.'s bid to operate dams along the Yadkin River, claiming Wednesday that the company intentionally withheld information.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the company failed to disclose details on the project's ability to meet the state's water quality standards. Officials said that omission came to light in a hearing about the certification.

"The process of certification relies on applicants submitting accurate and comprehensive information to the division," said Coleen Sullins, director of the Division of Water Quality. "When they do not, revocation is warranted."

Alcoa subsidiary Alcoa Power Generating Inc. said in a statement that it never withheld any "material information." The company plans to immediately challenge the state's revocation.

“Our team of experts developed a comprehensive plan to improve water quality, and we are already seeing improvement,” said Rick Bowen, president of Alcoa Energy. “We do not believe the state’s decision is justified or appropriate.”

The company says it will immediately begin challenging the decision.

A withdrawal of North Carolina's certification would essentially block Alcoa from getting federal approval in their contentious bid to operate four dams for up to 50 more years.

The state Division of Water Quality initially approved Alcoa's plans last year on condition that it include a $240 million guarantee that Alcoa make improvements to its system.

Wednesday's spat is centered on concerns over dissolved oxygen levels. The Yadkin dams are not currently meeting standards as they draw deep water with low dissolved oxygen levels and discharge that water into the river. The state wanted modifications to improve downstream conditions.

Internal company e-mails cited by state officials in a letter to Alcoa show company officials expressing concern that downstream waters may not meet state standards.

Alcoa spokesman Mike Belwood said those e-mails were simply a few internal debates among thousands of discussions and that the company ultimately provided all necessary information to the state. He said the company believes that when all the systems are completely in place, Alcoa will meet water quality standards.

The permit is opposed by a variety of state leaders, including Gov. Beverly Perdue, who hope to regain control over the dams and the electricity they produce.

21 Comments

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  • boingc Dec 1, 2010

    "This is because the state wants to stick their nose ever where it doesn't belong." meeper

    Yeah, the state shouldn't care about water quality!

  • redwolfone Dec 1, 2010

    We need to be careful here. If the state can take these dams, and I understand Alcoa did not uphold their end of the original deal, then the state can move on other business with similar environmental requirements. I don't like this, something does not smell right with this whole thing. This appears, on the surface, to be an inside deal behind closed doors somewhere.

    We will see who benefits, if the dams are lost and if they have a connection to the "Bev Nixon" administration. Seems a little fishey. We need more facts.

  • meeper Dec 1, 2010

    This is because the state wants to stick their nose ever where it doesn't belong. How about putting your full attention to balancing the budget, and reducing the size of government!

  • MSN93 Dec 1, 2010

    As a home owner on Badin Lake I can tell you that Stonewall Brigade has his facts straight. Most of the rest of you don't.

  • geosol Dec 1, 2010

    "Stonewall Brigade" is spot on. It's funny to read the right wing whackos posting the same drivel at every turn, regardless whether they know anything at all about the topic at hand. Classic!!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 1, 2010

    If Alcoa isn't allowed to continue to operate the dams, the state should fairly compensate Alcoa for the cost of the dams.

    If the state doesn't fairly compensate Alcoa for the cost of the dams, Alcoa should blow them all up and leave the state with only the river and the water in the river.

    Perdue is trying an Obama Socialist ploy to seize the dams and the profits from the electricity that the dams produce.

  • MillerB Dec 1, 2010

    dlk13ster- That's my question. -Did_ Alcoa make any of the upgrades they were required to do? If not, then I would say the state has every right to refuse to renew their license.

    GoGreen- I agree. It seems to me the only reason they want the dams is to make money.

  • dlnorri Dec 1, 2010

    the resource (river) is a public resource, not private. There a several ways the resource can be used and negetiated for. The real problem is there is nothing green about hydo power. The negative effects on the river and wildlife have been long and well documented. Hence a growing movement to remove dams and restore the rivers. Alcoa appears to be in violation of the original permit. If we are not going to remove the dams and restore the river, then we should bid out the resource (the river) to the highest bidder and allow them to operate the dams. I am certain there are a number of municipalities, utilities, and private companies that would be interested in this. Either by taking over alco's dams, or tearing them down and building new ones that are more effecient and less damaging to the river basin.

  • ncwiseguy Dec 1, 2010

    if north carolina is so hell bent on getting alcoa out of the power generation business, how about an alternative other than the state taking it over. call in duke energy and progress energy......get them to take it on. they ve got hydro stuff all over and should be able to straighten out whatever mess exists. a little arm twisting and perhaps some $$$ incentive would do the trick.

  • dlk13ster Dec 1, 2010

    -Real-Old-School

    Thank you very much for the clarification. But before we all assume a massive gov. conspiracy to seize control of every dam power plant in the state (pun intended ;), I'd first like to know what NC's stated reason for the refusal is--like Alcoa refusing to implement the state's mandated upgrades, perhaps?

    If their claims are proven to be specious--and I use "proven" to mean "in a court of law," not "in an Internet forum"--then you'd be right in assuming that this is graft and corruption of the very worst sort, on an epic scale.

    If, indeed, their goals were as pernicious as you initially believed.

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